Portal:Astrobiology

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Astrobiology

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of extraterrestrial life. This interdisciplinary field takes up the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in outer space. Astrobiology addresses the question of whether life exists beyond Earth, and how humans can detect it if it does.

Astrobiology makes use of physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, molecular biology, ecology, planetary science, geography, and geology to investigate the possibility of life on other worlds and help recognize biospheres that might be different from the biosphere on Earth. Astrobiology concerns itself with interpretation of existing scientific data; given more detailed and reliable data from other parts of the universe, the roots of astrobiology itself—physics, chemistry and biology—may have their theoretical bases challenged. Although speculation is entertained to give context, astrobiology concerns itself primarily with hypotheses that fit firmly into existing scientific theories.

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Blacksmoker in Atlantic Ocean.jpg
Extremophiles (organisms able to survive in extreme environments) are a core research element for astrobiologists. Such organisms include biota which are able to survive several kilometers below the ocean's surface near hydrothermal vents (example pictured) and microbes that thrive in highly acidic environments. It is now known that extremophiles thrive in ice, boiling water, acid, the water core of nuclear reactors, salt crystals, toxic waste and in a range of other extreme habitats that were previously thought to be inhospitable for life. It opened up a new avenue in astrobiology by massively expanding the number of possible extraterrestrial habitats. Characterization of these organisms—their environments and their evolutionary pathways—is considered a crucial component to understanding how life might evolve elsewhere in the universe. According to astrophysicist Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, "There are viable bacterial spores that have been found that are 40 million years old on Earth - and we know they're very hardened to radiation."

Selected biography

Frank Drake - edit.jpg
Frank Donald Drake PhD is an American astronomer and astrophysicist. He is most notable as one of the pioneers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1960 in Project Ozma, developing the Drake equation, and as the creator of the Arecibo Message, a digital encoding of an astronomical and biological description of the Earth and its lifeforms for transmission into the cosmos.

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Telescope Kepler-NASA.jpeg
Credit: NASA

The NASA Kepler mission, launched in March 2009, searches for extrasolar planets

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Astrobiology(11 C, 72 P)
Astrobiologists(69 P)
Alien language(1 C, 2 P)
Anthropic principle(10 P)
Extraterrestrial life(6 C, 48 P)
Extremophiles(18 C, 28 P)
Astrobiology journals(4 P)
Panspermia(18 P)
Planetary habitability(2 C, 10 P)
Astrobiology space missions(4 C, 20 P)
Square Kilometre Array(12 P)

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